Whether you’re looking to brush up on your French vocabulary, practise your Spanish conversation skills or gain a grounding in a totally new language for your next trip, there are hundreds of high-quality language learning apps to choose from today.
Exploring a new destination can be daunting at the best of times, let alone when you don’t speak a word of the language. Taking the time to get to grips with the basics ahead of any trip makes the experience more immersive, easier and enjoyable, but committing to a foreign-language course can be costly and impractical. Thankfully, there are now thousands of language apps designed to make learning a new language more affordable and accessible. These range from basic free tools designed to give users a handful of helpful phrases and vocabulary to subscription-based memberships where users can enjoy one-to-one online lessons via their mobile. But how to choose? We’ve selected five of the best language learning apps based on value for money, variety of lessons and subjects covered, ease of use and customer reviews.
Duolingo was a real game-changer for language learning when it hit the market in 2011, and now – over a decade later– it’s still one of the world’s favourite language apps. Gamification is at the heart of the app’s success: users need to collect gems, save hearts and complete challenges in order to progress. The interface is engaging and easy to use, and users are incentivised to practice every day thanks to shaming notifications and emails from Duo, the app’s mascot. Users can experiment with 39 languages. This is best suited to those looking for an introduction to the language, rather than those looking for context-specific instruction. The app is free, though users can opt to go add-free on the premium version. Free or $6.99 per month for premium.
Find out more at Duolingo.com
Speechling is ideal for learners looking to build up their confidence in conversation. The US-based non-for-profit is on a mission to make language learning free and affordable, so the platform is free for everyone. The concept is simple: users listen to a series of phrases and sentences recorded by native speakers, practice and repeat back. These recordings are corrected, with tips on how learners can improve their vocabulary and pronunciation. This method brings users much closer to cultural immersion than other apps. It’s available on both mobile and desktop in a wide range of languages, including Russian and Korean. Free.
Find out more at Speechling.com
Babbel pitches itself as an online classroom for self-paced learning, which makes it an excellent option for those who really want to get to grips with the building blocks of a language. Available in 14 languages, Babbel teaches words, phrases and concepts that are unique to your language of choice, unlike most of its competitors. The interface is simple and makes a new language look less overwhelming too. Users can opt for 15-minute lessons, which makes it easy to fit into your day. Recorded stories and podcasts are a nice touch too. The app is subscription-based, with prices cheapest for those who sign up for the full 12 months. From £6.99 per month for 12 months.
Find out more at Babbel.com
Available in 45 languages, Drops is ideal for those who are pressed for time but want to keep learning. Every day, users can enjoy a free five-minute lesson featuring matching, swiping, crosswords and bubble-pocking. It’s entertaining, intuitive and addictive. The illustrations are top-notch too, as is the spoken dictionary, which features more than 2,500 read by professional voice actors. It’s ideal for those looking to brush up on their vocabulary or to learn a few useful words and phrases ahead of a holiday. The app is free, but users can upgrade their lesson plans to 15 minutes per day for $69.99 per year.
Find out more at languagedrops.com
Goal-orientated users will love Busuu, which serves up bespoke daily study goals based on your level and motivations. Named after an almost extinct language in Cameroon, users can choose to learn 12 major languages from beginner to advanced. The interface is simple, clean and easy to use, featuring a range of interactive spelling and grammar exercises. Users also maximise the platform through the speaking and writing exchange, which requires learners to record or type an exercise for review by a native speaker. The free version is excellent, but those who want to take it up a level can pay a premium for one-on-one live lessons.
Find out more at Busuu.com